My heart is saddened with the careless approach taken when dealing with the souls of people. There seems to be, although many times unintentional, a lack of trust that the Holy Spirit will do His job of softening the heart, and opening the mind, revealing the Truth, and convincing the person that they are a sinner in need of a Savior. There is a long list of why we are blinded to the enemies schemes to convince us to manipulate people’s emotions with methods and techniques out of a real desire to see people saved. But no matter how sincere our intentions may be, we need to realize that as ambassadors for Christ we just need to simply share with people the Gospel of Christ and then trust God to move in the hearts and minds of the people who hear it as Romans 1:16-17 assures us of. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation (for deliverance from eternal death) to everyone who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and a firm reliance , to the Jew first and also to the Greek. FOR in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith ( disclosed through the way of Faith that arouses to more Faith). As it is written, The man who through Faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by Faith.”
I want to share with you an excerpt from Major Ian Thomas’s book : The Mystery of Godliness.
You can find this book and others by Major Thomas on Amazon or any Christian book store, but I encourage you to order his books from his own ministry , at Torchbearers International, which you can do at the following web sites, Torchbearers.org or Ravencrest.org
The Quality of True Commitment
“But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because he knew all men. (John 2:24)
All that glitters isn’t gold, and in the light of all that we are about to consider, it may well be profitable for us to make a sober re-evaluation of those standards of commitment that are prevalent today and that pass muster for Christian dedication.
All too often quantity takes precedence over quality, and in this highly competitive age those outward appearances of “success” that are calculated to enhance the reputation of the professional preacher or the prestige of those who have promoted him are of greater importance than the abiding consequences of his ministry.
In an unholy ambition to get “results”, the end too often justifies the means, with the result that the means are certainly not always beyond suspicion, and the “results” to say the least, extremely dubious !
In this unhappy situation both the pulpit and the pew, carry their share of the blame, though I suspect that it started in the pulpit ! There are those who have insisted that to be valid, every spiritual transaction between the believer and his Lord must be matched by some outward physical act, and that apart from the accompanying act, no worth can be attached to the inward spiritual transaction.
Inevitably on the basis of this unfounded supposition, the work of the Holy Spirit in any given meeting through the ministry of the preacher, will be directly represented by the physical response of the congregation to some form of public appeal, “invitation” or so-called “altar-call” – a TERM that is singularly inappropriate IN VIEW OF the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ “has offered one sacrifice for sins for ever”(Heb. 10:12) and there is no place today for another altar in the church of the redeemed THE ALTAR HAS GIVEN PLACE TO A THRONE FOR THE EXALTED LORD (May I just interject here that I believe
That most people and churches that refer to
The front of the church as an “altar” and the
Invitation as an “altar-call” are not thinking of it
In any way as another “sacrifice for sins.” But
Instead just giving people an opportunity to ask questions about
How to be born again or to publicly share that they have been born again and desire to be baptized.)
The terrible dangers inherent in such a fallacy, however are patently obvious !
The ambitious preacher, eager to climb the ladder of evangelical fame, and not altogether unmoved by the plight of the lost and the needs of the saints, will be subject to a temptation so strong, that for more than one it has proved to be irresistible – that of being heavily preoccupied with devising ways and means of ensuring that a large enough public “response” on the part of the congregation will adequately demonstrate the effectiveness of his preaching, vindicate his reputation, sufficiently reward the confidence of his sponsors, and suitably impress the crowd.
The preacher, of course, will not allow himself to be aware of the underlying motives which prompt the use of his clever techniques, being careful to persuade himself that they stem from what he would describe as a genuine “passion for souls”. But the sorry spectacle is exposed for what it is by the apparent indifference on the part of the preacher to the tragic aftermath of his endeavors, once “the show is over”.
It is little wonder that the pulpit, having drilled the pew into submission, now finds itself the victim of its own ill-conceived imposition, for the community which has been taught to accept outward, physical response to some public “invitation” as the criterion of spiritual success on the part of the preacher, invariably demands this tangible evidence of success on every occasion in which he engages in his ministry.
Thus the Pastor of a small church trapped in the grip of this vicious circle, may succeed over a period of time in bringing the whole of his congregation “out to the front” to stand at the communion rail in response to his many appeals – but having had all his people out once, it will be incumbent upon him to get them out all over again and again and again if his fervor and his zeal are not to be called into question by his church officers, and his pastorate, perhaps, become vacant.
The Pastor has no option under such circumstances but to whittle down the commitment he demands until its whole value and meaning has been lost, for it can never be final, otherwise he would preach himself out of business! Instead of being faced with complete capitulation to the Lord Jesus Christ, and final, irrevocable abandonment to all His will, the believer is presented again and again with “baby” issues, all of which should be comprehended in the greater, basic issue of true discipleship !
It is much easier to confront a person with his sins than it is to confront him with his “sin”, for as will be fully demonstrated in later chapters of this book, “sin” is an attitude which affects a man’s fundamental relationship to God; it has to do with what a man is; whereas “sins” have to do with what a man does, and we all have a happy knack of being able to detach what we do from what we are ! We are highly skilled in the art of self-justification and are able to produce innumerable reasons as to why what we did was excusable – even if it was wrong ! We can even feel heroic, almost virtuous, in accepting the blame for that which so obviously (to us) was only the natural , almost inevitable reaction to enticing, compelling or provocative circumstances or people ! For this reason a man can admit and be sorry for what he has done, without admitting what he has done is a result of what he is.
On this basis a person may be called upon a hundred times to face the lesser issues of what he has done, without once being confronted with the greater issue of what he is – indeed the “comfort” to be found in confession, bringing freedom from fear and relief from a bad conscience will eliminate for him the need for any basic change in his fundamental relationship to God. This kind of confession falls hopelessly short of real repentance and remains unmatched by any change of purpose; Moses reduced his people to tears again and again – but it left them in the wilderness ! They still had no heart for Canaan ! There was no lack of response to Moses preaching, but they would not do business with God ! “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die !” (Exodus 20:19)
They wanted second-hand religion ! They wanted neither godlessness nor godliness – they did not know how to live, and they were afraid to die ! Commitment to the was on the installment system, and Moses was their broker !
Secondhand religion may keep a preacher in business and make him indispensable to his congregation, but it cannot produce discipleship; there will be no spontaneity of action nor any other evidence of that divine initiative in man which springs only from man’s total availability to God.
True commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ gives Him “right of way” and releases His Life through you in all the freshness and power of divine action, so that according to His gracious promise, out of you innermost being “springs and rivers of living water shall flow(continuously)” (John 7:38) and you do not have to push a river ! It cuts its own channel and cleanses as it flows !
In drawing attention to those glaring abuses that have done so much to discredit modern evangelism and conventional ministry. I do not suggest for one moment that there is not a legitimate place for the public profession of faith in Christ, nor would I insist that true commitment to Christ may never be accompanied by an outward witness to the fact. That would be to throw away the baby with the bath water, for without a doubt, there are many who have been greatly helped in their decision for Christ or in their commitment to Christ by a wise gracious invitation to act, rather than to delay further in yielding obedience to the Truth.
My plea is simply for reality – on God’s terms of reference ! It is for this reason also , that no matter how intensely I may dislike the shallowness and showmanship of men, in their abuse of the Holy art of preaching by the use of doubtful “response techniques.” I cannot on the other hand, endorse in any way the empty accusations made by the champions of hollow, ritualistic formalism, that all activity outside the established “practice of religion” within the “respectable church systems” is of necessity all “mere ignorant emotionalism.” That is sheer nonsense !